As the year draws to an end, most people have been trying to summarize the events of the year gone by. Arguably, revolts and revolutions have been the most significant part of the year. A common thread connects WikiLeaks, revolts in several African and middle-east countries, the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and closer home, heightening protests against corruption. Perhaps Mother Earth too is getting frustrated after such prolonged abuse. Rebellion, it seems is in every human’s blood.
Keeping in spirit with the theme of the year, here is a piece of frustration shared by several women who travel by public transport in the Capital…
The Delhi Metro is one of many things a resident of the city is proud of. State of the art technology, on-time performance, and (gasp!) cleanliness. So when the first compartment of the train was reserved for ladies, it was another hurrah moment.
With jam-packed trains, the first compartment of the train provided a huge relief for women against a rather unruly and unsafe public. While it provided a sense of security, there was still something disturbing.
Very often, men would enter the compartment and stand at the divider between the first coach and the rest of the train. If a lady wished to enter the first coach, she had to move past a wall of men. It was virtually impossible to get past this human barricade without a huge struggle. Very often, the whole train would be empty, and only the second coach of the train would be over-crowded.
One morning, things got out of control. The ladies’ coach was brimming with men. Women spoke in hushed voices, speaking about the crowd. But no one seemed to object openly. And then a girl screamed. She pleaded and wailed to move past a huge group of people. No one yielded. Some hooligans in the crowd began hooting when a few women made some noise. They refused to move away, even when told to do so.
And then something amazing happened. A couple of women blocked the gate to the entrance of the coach and shouted. ‘This train will not move till the women’s coach has men in it’. The doors of the metro train are programmed to open automatically when there is an obstruction.Taking advantage of this, the ladies held up the train.
Even after this move, men refused to budge, even shamelessly smiling at the ladies. Then a few ladies, getting frustrated began manually pushing men out. Most of the men complained saying there was no space in the train. But a few minutes later, we came to know that they had magically found some space in other parts of the same train!
Soon order was restored and the train was allowed to move. A few ladies, unknown to each other, formed an instant union and coordinated with each other to get rid of the men in the compartment. It was heartening to see such unity among women, who are willing to step up and fight for themselves. No knight in shining armour needed. But how did we get into this mess in the first place?
In a way, we are responsible for it. When men started entering the compartment, no one said anything. Only when it reached a tipping point did something happen. And even then, it was only a handful of women who managed to get the courage to do something about the situation, while the majority just stood watching.
From the very beginning, girls are told to learn to adjust to their surroundings. Sacrifice and selflessness are virtues that are the hallmark of a lady. It is all very well. But then subconsciously, the feeling of inferiority, and subservience is instilled into them. And most often, women themselves propagate such ‘values’. It is most unlady-like to do certain things. There are unwritten, yet deeply entrenched rules regarding the behaviour of a lady. Yet, the behaviour of the other half (the majority, to be more precise) is unchecked.
Women themselves have brought upon this situation. By allowing people to trample over us, we cannot really complain. But it is time we stepped up and stopped being bullied. If a lady is not offered the courtesy and shown the respect she deserves, there is absolutely no reason for her to still act lady-like (read meek and docile).
Gandhiji was an advocate for empowerment of women. During the freedom struggle, men and women fought beside each other. When Ms Indira Gandhi was assasinated, it was looked upon in horror. ‘Stree hatya!’, they said. The worst crime that can ever be committed. How then, did India reach this low? If we look back at the lessons from our historic texts, one cord that is common to all is this: The land where a woman is disrespected, is doomed.